The Carmel City Council on Feb. 15 unanimously voted against an ordinance that would have altered the approval process for accessory dwelling units, also known as in-law quarters or granny flats.
Originally proposed as a way to expand affordable housing options in the city, many councilors believed regulations added by the Carmel Plan Commission and city council’s land use committee did little to change the existing process for adding accessory dwelling units and therefore wouldn’t lead to more affordable housing.
The council had a deadline of Feb. 17 to vote on the matter. Councilors didn’t believe they could address all of their concerns before that date, so they voted against the ordinance. Some said they are open to reviewing the topic again.
“If this does come back, if there is a need to address the affordable housing issue with this type of tool, we’re going to need a lot more public education and information,” councilor Jeff Worrell said.
The city received some support for the ordinance as originally proposed, but most feedback opposed it. The original proposal would have required that 20 percent of lots in new residential developments with 10 or more lots of 1 acre or less include an ADU in some form. It also included a set of standards for ADUs that — when followed — would not require them to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals for approval, as is currently the case in most areas of the city.
As it deliberated the proposal, the plan commission removed the requirement for ADUs in new neighborhoods and added a requirement for detached ADUs to receive special use approval from a BZA hearing officer. Then, the council’s land use committee recommended that detached ADUs must be approved by the full BZA — as is the case now — and that attached ADUs must receive approval from a BZA hearing officer.
Councilor Tim Hannon said the city needs to look well beyond ADUs to begin addressing the affordable housing shortage.
“If we were serious about affordable housing, what we need is a long term, multi-stakeholder committee or task force to really look thoroughly at what the potential solutions are and then make recommendations that are implementable,” he said. “That’s not exclusive of this ordinance, but I think we need a more comprehensive approach than this particular ordinance.”